Top Ten Mistakes Made by Beginning Guitarists (part 3 of 3)

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7 Not keeping fingers close to the fret.

Its easier to play and you will sound better when you place your fretting finger close the the fret. A lot of times I see students putting their finger about halfway between two frets. If you do this you’ll need to press down harder on the string which makes it harder to play. Also, your notes will tend to not ring as clearly.

8 Letting the guitar lay flat on the lap

When you first start playing you need to be able to see your fingers clearly so you know you are doing things correctly. Many beginners will tilt the guitar back – sometimes until its almost flat on their lap – so they can see better. Don’t be one of those people! Doing this does allow you to get a better look but it also puts your hands in a terrible position for playing. Pay attention while you are playing to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Its easy to do this without noticing.

9 “My fingers aren’t long enough!”

This is very common. So many students have told me that their fingers are not long enough to be able to play the 6th string or play a G chord or anything else that requires a big stretch. Usually I’ll ask the student to hold their hand up to mine and show them that their fingers are about the same size as mine. Then I’ll demonstrate that I can play those big stretches without a lot of effort.

The problem is almost never the size of the hand. Its getting your fingers used to making those awkward movements that only guitar players need to make. Once you are aware of this you can change your mindset from “I will never be able to do this” (ie my hand is too small) to “I am learning to do this correctly”.

10 Using giant pick strokes

This is another really common mistake. More than half of all the beginners I’ve taught have started out using huge pick strokes. When picking a single note, the pick should usually only move around a quarter inch (about .5 cm). Kids especially tend to use a lot of motion when they pick but adults are sometimes guilty too.

The problem is often due to the fact that the student is using the elbow to move the pick. The elbow should stay more or less motionless. The motion should come mostly from your fingers when playing a single string and from your wrist when strumming chords.

Those are the top ten mistakes I’ve come across in my years as a guitar teacher. I hope that you found at least one or two that helpd you get better on guitar. If you’d like to share the mistakes that you’ve made I’d love to hear about them. Leave them in the comments section below.

BTW, I just completed my brand-new video course “Learn Guitar With BrianGuitarGuy”. You can enroll in the course and get started right now by clicking on the link.

See you there!


Top Ten Mistakes Made by Beginning Guitarist (part 2 of 3)

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Part 2 of 3

4 Not getting consistent practice

This is a big one… You need to practice nearly every day if you want to get better. Many beginners make the mistake of thinking that they will get better by just taking lessons online or from a teacher. But the truth is – most of your improvement comes from the time you spend practicing in between your lessons. You’ve got to spend time playing to get better. And you’ve got to practice consistently. Instead of practicing three hours on the day of your lesson its best to break that time up into six or seven sessions of 20-30 minutes throughout the week.

5 Not bending the fretting hand fingers

You need to play notes using the tips of your fingers. Your fingers should be curled so that they bend at the first two joints.

The right way to fret a note
The Correct Way to Fret a Note

The wrong way to fret a note
The Wrong Way to Fret a Note

This may not seem important at first. After all you can probably play notes with flat fingers and they may sound fine. However, as you start to play more difficult things on the guitar such as chords or fast licks you’ll find that keeping your fingers flat will not work at all.

6 Not letting the notes ring out. Not playing clear notes.

Every note you play should ring out clearly. It should not sound muffled and you should not hear a buzzing sound. While this problem is sometimes caused by playing on a guitar that is not setup properly, most often its caused by not having your finger close enough to the frets or by not pushing hard enough.

The Top Ten Mistakes Made by Beginning Guitarists

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I’ve taught guitar for many years now and over time I’ve noticed that a few mistakes are common to most beginning guitarists. Here is part one of a three part article that lists the top ten mistakes I’ve noticed and what you can do about them!

1 Not keeping the thumb at 2nd fret:

When you first start playing, you usually play between frets 1 and 4. This is sometimes called “first position”. When playing in first position, the fretting hand thumb should be between the first and second frets. Usually its close to the second fret.

Most beginners start out with their thumb in that position but while they are playing they tend to slide the thumb around because it is easier to reach some of the notes that way. But when your thumb moves out of position it makes it more difficult to find the right fret by feel.

When you are first starting out you have a lot of things to pay attention to and its easy to forget about keeping your thumb stationary. Make sure to check every so often to make sure your thumb has not wandered away from where it should be. It can also be helpful to have someone else watch your thumb while you are playing and let you know if you move it.

2 Holding the pick wrong

The pick grip that most experienced guitar players use feels strange at first. For a video and photos that teach you how to hold the pick see this blog post:

3 Playing too fast!

Most of us want to be able to play fast. The problem is that most of us try to play fast before we are ready to. No one likes to hear this, but you NEED to start playing slowly. You need to play at a speed that feels “in control” to you. You should never feel rushed. When you are playing something that is new to you, you should take all the time you need to play it perfectly. Practice playing it perfectly over and over and THEN start to speed up just a little. If you speed up just a little bit every single day then you will be playing a lot faster in a month! AND you will be playing much cleaner and more accurately than if you had tried to start playing at a high speed to ostart.

If you play too fast and “out of control” then you will make mistakes. But the worst part is that you are actually training yourself to make mistakes in the future. By playing something over and over incorrectly, your hands will get used to making these mistakes and you will make them again and again.

What kind of pick should I use?

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What kind of guitar pick should I use?” As a guitar teacher, I hear this question a lot.
There are quite a few choices available so beginners and intermediate players alike often
wonder which pick they should be using.

Choosing the right pick depends largely on personal taste so you may need to experiment a
little. But there are some guidelines that you can follow to make the choice easier for you.

For example, if you usually strum chords when you play guitar then a thinner pick might work
better for you. Thin picks have less resistance so they tend to glide across the strings a
little easier. You can play strumming patterns more quickly and without the feeling of
“fighting” the guitar if you use a thin pick.

A thin pick however does have a thinner tone with more bite to it. If you want a bigger,
warmer sound you may prefer a thicker pick. I usually use a thick pick when playing a lot of
single string lines (ie. a guitar lead). I love the full, rich tone that I get when using this
sort of pick. Usually I play a 2.0 mm Adamas pick for lead work.

The main drawback to a thicker pick is that it may slow you down a bit. You have to work a
tiny bit harder to play each note and this can make it feel like it’s more difficult to play
with a bigger pick. For this reason, if I need to play very fast, single string music (flatpicking bluegrass guitar for example) then I’ll usually choose a medium pick since that seems to be a good compromise between speed and tone.

Next time you’re at the music store consider buying a whole assortment of different picks and
experimenting with them. Picks are cheap so it’s probably a good idea to take the time to learn what works best for you.

Beginning Guitar – How to Play Guitar – Episode 13

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In this episode I go over a new type of strumming pattern. This one adds bass notes to the chords and gives you some more polished, professional sounds than the more basic patterns we’ve done in earlier episodes.

Hold down a G chord with your left hand. Bass note is on the 6th string.


Hold a G chord for the first measure and a C chord for the second measure. Bass note for a C chord is on the 5th string.


Bass, chord, bass, chord pattern


The “cowboy” rhythm pattern


Bass, chord, alternate bass, chord pattern. The alternate bass for a G chord is on the 4th string.


How to do alternate bass with a cowboy rhythm


Adding a quick upstroke on the “and” between the 2nd and 3rd beat

Adding a quick upstroke to the cowboy pattern


The alternate bass note for a D chord is on the 5th string


D chord cowboy pattern with alternating bass


The alternate bass for a C chord is on the 6th string, 3rd fret. You need to move your third finger to do this.


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How to Play Guitar – Beginning Guitar Episode 12

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Blues Solo

Section A


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Section B


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Section C


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Section D


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Play sections in this order:

Repeat after me answers

Tip: Pick Strokes
Usually you will use very small (about 2-3 mm) pick strokes.
Anchoring the pinky on the pickguard will stabilize your picking hand and give you a point of reference which makes it easier to find the string you are looking for.

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Free Guitar Lessons – Beginning Guitar Episode 11

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New chords

A, Am, Dm, D7, E7, C7
Find the guitar chord diagrams here

Some suggested progressions – try these and then make up your own.
Use any strum patterns I’ve taught or try creating some new progressions.

E Am E Am
C7 G7 C7 G7
C Am
G Em C D
C Dm G7 C

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Free Guitar Lessons – Beginning Guitar Episode 10

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Three string F chord

Four string F chord

Video – hints for playing bar chords on guitar

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Free Guitar Lesson – Beginning Guitar Episode 9

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Left-Hand percussive muting
Apply percussive muting to strum pattern
1 2 & & 4, percussive mute on 2

Percussive Muting Video

Review of note names
Review two or three neighboring strings at a time.
spell words using letter A through G such as:

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Beginning Guitar Episode 8

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How to play sharps and flats on guitar


1st string – F# on second fret
2nd string – D# on fourth fret, Db on second fret

How to Read Music for Guitar – free eBook

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Beginning Guitar Episode 7

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More complex chords

Vital to keep fingers arched. Use only your fingertips to play these chords. No flat fingers!

six-string G, G7, Em, E, Am
Five string C

This page has chord diagrams for the chords in this episode

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Beginning Guitar Episode 6a – Important Message

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Apparently episode 5 became corrupted during the upload. The result was that half the episode was cut off. I fixed the problem and that episode is good to go now.

Sorry for the inconvenience,


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Beginning Guitar Episode 6

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In this episode:

Chord Patterns

A more complex strum pattern for chords. I do this with the four-string G chord you learned earlier:


After mastering the pattern try using it to play this progression:

G G7 C C

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Beginning Guitar Episode 5

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In this episode:

A new strum pattern:

1 2 & 3 4 Count
D D U D D Pick strokes (D=down, U=up)

How to play Star Wars on Guitar:


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Beginning Guitar Episode 4

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1st string – Open = E, 1st fret = F, 3rd fret = G

2nd string – Open = B, 1st = C, 3rd = D

3rd string – Open = G, 2nd = A

4th string – Open = D, 2nd = E, 3rd = F

5th string – Open = A, 2nd = B, 3rd = C

6th string – Open = E, 1st = F, 3rd = G

Remember, 1st and 6th string have same note names. 6th string is two octaves lower.

Four-String Guitar Chords

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